Global Independent Analytics
Tobias Nase
Tobias Nase

Location: Germany

Specialization: Syria, US Foreign policy, Ukraine

From Cairo to Cologne

From the Culture of sexual harassment in Arab countries

New Year’s Eve 2015 and the events in Cologne, Germany showed that the refugee debate is not over. Weeks after women in Cologne were sexually harassed, robbed and even one woman raped (according to allegations), the debate is at no end. Many facts are still unknown and most likely will remain so. However some people claim to have found the reason for these attacks in the Islamic or Arab culture. But is Arab culture really one of the roots of the problem? The Arab spring, as well as the events in Cologne opened a new debate about this issue. The following series of articles will feature different themes in trying to find reasons for what happened in Cologne, reflecting on past, similar, and even worse events in Egypt, on sexual harassment and the status of women in Arab countries, and conclusions from Cologne.

  • Part 1 – Rape on Tahrir Square in Egypt
  • Part 2 – Women and sexual harassment in Arab societies
  • Part 3 – The forgotten freedom of Arab women
  • Part 4 – Cologne and the conclusions

Part 1 – Rape on Tahrir Square in Egypt

In 2011 during the Egyptian revolution millions of people gathered at Cairo’s central Tahrir Square to protest against the former regime.  On February 11, 2011 the South African CBS journalist Lara Logan was reporting from Tahrir square on the celebrations that followed Hosni Mubarak's resignation. She was able to report for one hour without any problems, until the battery of the camera light went empty. What followed were acts of brutality carried out by men on Tahrir Square. The crowd started making inappropriate sexual comments about her. Then she was pulled into a circle of dozen of men, her clothes were torn off her body and the men started raping her over and over with their hands, as she described in an interview later. For 25 minutes she was completely lost in that sex mob, which activists describe as the “circle of hell”, fearing to die, and being pulled in different directions. Eventually she was rescued by Egyptian women who managed to defend her against the mob, and later was escorted by Egyptian soldiers out of the crowd.

Sadly this was not the only attack on Tahrir Square. It was not even the only attack against a foreign woman on Tahrir Square. The British journalist Natasha Smith survived a similar attack in 2012. And the same happened to a 22-years-old unnamed Dutch journalist in 2013. Dozens of these rape mob attacks happened on Tahrir to Egyptian women, who were the main target. In July 2013 during the days of the second revolution against the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood President Mursi, the number of these attacks skyrocketed. On one day, 80 cases of such mobs were reported and in one week, more than 169 cases. Dozens of testimonies about these rapes can be found all across the Internet. Some women even required surgeries after they were raped with sharp objects.

The mobs were well organized

These attacks usually followed a certain procedure and were well organized. Egyptian activist Hussein El-Shafie, a volunteer for Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault (OpAntiSH), describes the procedure in the Egyptian Ahram newspaper as follows: A group of men usually form two lines and begins snaking through the square, while chanting and singing. Once they find a victim - one or two women standing alone - the group forms a u-shape around the women and then a complete circle, trapping them inside.

Hatem Tallima, an activist and member of Revolutionary Socialists, stated in the same article that the group then forms three concentric rings around the victim: “The men in the circle immediately surrounding the woman begin to strip the girl. The second circle includes men who claim that they are helping the girl. The third circle tries to distract the people in the square from what is happening. One takes her shoes off, another pulls her trousers off, then someone else takes her phone and watch”.

Why did nobody intervene?

The overall chaotic situation during a revolution and the total absence of police forces in that situation made it even more complicated to fight these mobs. The attackers are aware of this and they also know that they will be seldom judged. In an Interview with the Daily News Egypt newspaper Farah Shash, a psychologist at Al-Nadim Centre for Human Rights, suggests that people are less likely to intervene in an emergency if there are other bystanders. This mass psychological phenomenon is known as “Diffusion of responsibility”.

Organized resistance

However, the female and male revolutionaries at Tahrir Square organized resistance against these attacks. They founded different groups like Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault (OpAntiSH), which tried to fight these occurrences by informing people and intervening if they happen, even by putting their own lives into risk. They were also able to film one of these attacks and upload it for informational purposes to YouTube.

Rape and harassment as political weapon

During the Egyptian revolutions in 2011 and 2013 these rape mobs were most likely used as a political weapon. In the beginning they did not exist. “We have seen during the 18 days before Mubarak was brought down, women were there [at Tahrir Square], there was not a single harassment report, nothing happened. It was very inclusive—men, women, Muslims, Christians, everyone. It was like heaven”, said Dalia Ziada, executive director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Once again on an Egyptian TV show she stated that the attacks in 2013 were “a methodical act of terrorism” carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) “to distract the world” from President Sisi’s victory in the elections. And many other people also suggested that the mobs were connected to the Muslim Brotherhood or the former Mubarak regime.

Magda Adly, the director of the Nadeem Centre for Human Rights, suggests that under Mubarak, the government paid thugs to beat male protestors and sexually assault women. “This is still happening now”, she told The Times in 2012. “I believe thugs are being paid money to do this ... the Muslim Brotherhood have the same political approaches as Mubarak”.

Another activist and member of the Egyptian Socialist National Alliance Party, Marwah Farouk, spoke in 2012 to ON TV and said that two of her female colleagues were kidnapped, sexually assaulted and beaten by MB members. "All of that happened while the police were watching. ... A police officer even told an MB member: 'Whatever you wish to do, sir;'”. “All that is happening is systematic”, she added.

In another interview with ON TV the prominent Egyptian professor and political scientist Gamal Zahran said these sex mobs on Tahrir Square were “political harassment” by the Muslim Brotherhood.

In an interview with the British Channel 4, activist Affaf Al-Sayed said   that: “Muslim Brotherhood members were sexually assaulting women in order to make sure women activists would keep away from Tahrir Square”, and that women “were targeted by sexual assaults by both the MB and elements of the former [Mubarak] regime”.

The rape mobs were paid

A report on Channel 4 was especially interesting because it was one of the only interviews with members of these mobs and perpetrators of sexual assaults. Both men, who were interviewed, are living in poor neighborhoods where criminal gangs are committing crimes. They confessed that they were paid for their acts.

Unemployment and poverty are a big problem in Egypt. More than 23% of Egyptians are unemployed and more than 50% live in poverty. None of the perpetrators know who was the real body behind the payment, but one mentioned that he was already paid during the time of Hosni Mubarak’s regime to harass women during elections and whenever they speak out. He continued to say that “people of high rank” are behind this, as they “don’t want the revolution to succeed”.

Conclusion

The sex mobs on Tahrir were very well organized by smaller gangs and were used as a political tool to exclude women from the protests. Most likely first the Mubarak regime and later the Morsi -Muslim Brotherhood regime used these attacks against women to silence them. Victims were not chosen by “how openly they dress” or anything else. They were picked randomly to create an atmosphere of fear, so that women should stay at home and not participate in the protests. However, it is likely that the general attitude of the current Egyptian society concerning women favored this behavior.

Related ARTICLES

EU Blackmailed by Turkey, Member States blackmailed by EU

EU Blackmailed by Turkey, Member States blackmailed by EU

The crème-de-la-crème efforts of the EU to address the refugee crisis are pathetic.

03 June 2016

by Valerijus Simulik

Can we all just be like Berlin?

Can we all just be like Berlin?

Why do we all like Berlin so much?

14 May 2016

by Joshua Tartakovsky

SALAFISM IN CATALONIA: A NEW BELGIUM IN SOUTHERN EUROPE?

SALAFISM IN CATALONIA: A NEW BELGIUM IN SOUTHERN EUROPE?

We still do not realize that Belgium is a country of immigration like all Europe is becoming.

21 April 2016

by Ester Gallego

POPULAR ARTICLES

Not Found

OPINION

Vladimir Golstein

Vladimir Golstein

The Danderous Acceptance of Donald Trump

James N. Green

James N. Green

Politics in Brazil: Fasten Your Seat Belts!

Barbara H. Peterson

Barbara H. Peterson

Health officials confirm spread of Zika virus through sexual contact in Texas, first in US

Danny Haiphong

Danny Haiphong

WHY IS OTTO(SUPER)MAN ERDOGAN LOSING HIS CHARISMA?

Miray Aslan

Miray Aslan

How relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran reached a breaking point

Navid Nasr

Navid Nasr

How relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran reached a breaking point

Writers

chief editor

Joshua Tartakovsky

Analysis should serve as a method to better understand our world, not to obscure it.

Materials: 42

Specialization: Israel and the Middle East, US politics

Materials: 7

Specialization: Balkans, NATO and EU policies, Strategic communications

Materials: 3

Specialization: Foreign politics, Immigration, Human rights.

Materials: 2

Specialization: Political Science, Social Anthropology

Materials: 3

Specialization: Eastern Europe

Materials: 14

Specialization: Industrial Safety, Corporations

Materials: 12

Specialization: Eastern Europe, Labor movement

Materials: 3

Specialization: American history, way of life, and principles

Danielle Ryan

Ireland

Materials: 10

Specialization: US foreign policy, US-Russia relations and media bias

Materials: 20

Specialization: War, Racism, Capitalist exploitation, Civil rights

Materials: 8

Specialization: Modern Japanese History, Modern Chinese History, Military History, History of Counterinsurgency, History of Disobedience, Dynamics of Atrocities in Wartime

Dovid Katz

Lithuania

Materials: 3

Specialization: Holocaust Revisionism and Geopolitics; East European Far Right & Human Rights; Yiddish Studies & Litvak Culture

Materials: 20

Specialization: History, Catalunya, Spain, Geopolitics, Nationalism in Europe, Islamization, Immigration

Materials: 5

Materials: 3

Specialization: migration, international relations

Materials: 1

Specialization: Syria, US Foreign policy and strategies, BRICS/SCO

Materials: 19

Specialization: Balkans, Yugoslavia

Materials: 10

Specialization: Jihadist Groups, Islamic Terrorism, Global Security

Materials: 4

Specialization: Geopolitics

Materials: 4

Specialization: Media and government relations

Materials: 2

Specialization: Latin America, Brazil

Jay Watts

Canada

Materials: 2

Specialization: History, Marxism-Leninism, Imperialism, Anti-imperialism.

Materials: 2

Specialization: International Relations, Sociology, Geostrategy

Materials: 1

Specialization: civil rights

Lionel Baland

Belgium

Materials: 22

Specialization: Euroscepticism, Patriotic parties of Europe

Maram Susli

Australia

Materials: 3

Specialization: Geopolitics

Materials: 2

Specialization: Civil rights, Racism, US politics

Materials: 1

Specialization: geopolitics, economics

Max J. Schindler

Palestine-Israel

Materials: 9

Specialization: Politics

Miray Aslan

Turkey

Materials: 12

Specialization: Media, Politics

Materials: 5

Specialization: Politics, International relations

Navid Nasr

Croatia

Materials: 13

Specialization: Global security, Politics

Materials: 9

Specialization: Development of European Union, Non-governmental organizations, Politics and economics in Baltic States

Materials: 9

Specialization: Greece, Crisis of the US hegemony; Israel / Occupied Palestine, Oppression of Black people in the US

Materials: 4

Specialization: geopolitics, Russia, USSR

Pedro Marin

Brazil

Materials: 17

Specialization: Latin America, Ukraine, North Korea

Materials: 13

Specialization: Sustainable development, International relations, Comparative European politics, European integration, Eastern European politics and EU-Russia relations

Materials: 8

Specialization: Politics

Materials: 16

Specialization: Counterterrorist Finance

Seyit Aldogan

Greece

Materials: 3

Specialization: ISIS, Middle East, Globalization, Migrant crisis

Materials: 1

Specialization: Head of "Srebrenica Historical Project"

Materials: 3

Specialization: Economy, Social politics

Stevan Gajic

Serbia

Materials: 1

Specialization: Full time researcher at the Institute for European Studies

Materials: 5

Specialization: Geopolitics, Geoeconomics

Materials: 2

Specialization: Civil rights

Tobias Nase

Germany

Materials: 8

Specialization: Syria, US Foreign policy, Ukraine

Valerijus Simulik

Lithuania

Materials: 2

Specialization: Politics and economics in Baltic States, education and science, non - governmental organizations, globalization and EU

Van Gelis

Greece

Materials: 17

Specialization: Middle East

Materials: 1

Specialization: Kosovo, Serbia, Belgrad bombing

Materials: 5

Specialization: international relations, Russia

toTop